Salt: Selected Stories and Essays
Paperback $34.99, eBook $16.99
This collection of stories and essays by Bruce Pascoe traverses his long career and explores his enduring fascination with Australia's landscape, culture and history.
Astrid Edwards writes in the Sydney Morning Herald:
Pascoe is of Bunurong and Yuin descent. He is an awarding-winning writer, editor and, more recently, historian. He has always combined his writing craft with other careers, and in his time has worked as a teacher, farmer, fisherman, lecturer and Aboriginal language researcher.
He has been writing for almost four decades, and while he achieved critical success in that time it was Dark Emu that brought him to centre stage. In 2018 he was named Person of the Year at the Dreamtime Awards and awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Australia Council. This year is proving no less significant for the septuagenarian. He has released two works – Young Dark Emu: A Truer History and Salt: Selected Stories and Essays.
Pascoe is driven to dispel the colonial myths that most of us were taught in school. In Dark Emu he shares the evidence from the diaries of early explorers and demonstrates the advanced food production and land management of Aboriginal civilisation. In Young Dark Emu he brings this message to the next generations. There is also a Dark Emu in the Classroom, a resource for secondary-school geography teachers.
But what drives him to go beyond the original Dark Emu. Why is one book – a highly awarded one at that – not enough? "I went to a school in Western Australia last year. I was early for the session I was going to give, and I went into the library to see what was there. And I found nothing. Not one book on Aboriginal Australians.
Has he, as an Aboriginal writer, found it difficult to be published in Australia? And if so, has he ever felt silenced by the industry? He is clear. "Yes, I have … I began getting published in the 1970s. It was a lot easier than today … But after people realised I was writing from an Aboriginal perspective and that I am in fact Aboriginal – because I don't look Aboriginal and because it took me a good 20 years to actually be able to write down the family tree – I felt the publishing industry towards the end of the 1980s turned away from me. Some in the publishing industry said some pretty insulting things racially. I have retained those documents. And that hurt, but it became apparent that I was being sidelined."
Pascoe says his next project is to complete a story he started writing nearly two decades ago.
"I've been struggling to finish it because of all the work with Dark Emu. I've been with it for 15, 20 years. As every writer knows, if you leave something on the desk for six months and don't go back to it, by the time you are ready to go back vast changes will be needed. This novel, Imperial Harvest, has probably been rewritten seven times.
"The impulse for Imperial Harvest was the awful realisation about the reliance of Western society on war and what it does. You know, we have these great ideas … And then we send young people off to war. Where does that violence in the Western mind spring from? I am trying to answer that question. This is a book about war, someone damaged by war, and the awful consequences of violence."
Published in Chain Reaction #137, December 2019. National magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia. www.foe.org.au/chain_reaction